Building up to BHM: Wouter Raeymaekers

Building up to BHM: Wouter Raeymaekers

Wouter Raeymaekers has qualified for The World Games as a member of the Belgium Tug of War team in the 640 kg class. He started with Tug of War around the age of 11, in an unusual way: “The kids of friends of my mother were doing Tug of War, and they asked me to join them for a commercial spot on a children's channel on TV. After that I joined them during a training session, and now I’m here!” Wouter Raeymakers is our athlete this week Building up to BHM!

Raeymaekers says that Tug of War is a sport you can’t compare with anything else. “A lot of people don’t know Tug of War as a ‘professional sport’. They think it’s just a game for kids. Not a lot of people are doing it in Belgium, and that’s the first reason why it’s special, because it’s different. Tug of War is an underrated sport, because it sounds like “ just pulling on a rope”, but it’s a lot more than that. You need strength, stamina but also a lot of technique and tactical teamwork. You can be super strong, but if you don’t use the right technique you won’t last long on the rope. It comes down to many details like how you put your hands, where and how you press on your feet, and how you lean back. Also the type of ground can give a wholly different competition. Al these things make Tug of War super-interesting and special!”

Tug of War training

A lot of the training sessions are also rather special. “After a warm-up, we pull weights up with a small rope on an individual pulley. Then we go on the rope with the whole team and do exercises on the big pulley. A large container hangs on the pulley, that we put weights in. We end our training with heavy matches between 2 teams of 8 people, like in competition. During the season we always train outside on grass, also when it rains. During winter, when the ground is frozen, we train in sand.”

“A great experience at The World Games”

I expect to have a great experience at The World Games 2022,” says Raeymaekers.

“It’s my first one, so I’m really excited about how everything will go. It’s a different competition from which I can learn a lot. Of course we hope for a medal, like every other athlete at The World Games, that’s why we train.” The Belgium team will compete against Germany, Great Britain, Italy, The Netherlands and Switzerland.

”I will get to know different types of sport, which sounds awesome. I would like to see a combat sport like Muaythai, it looks impressive. Canoe Polo is something I hope to see as well, it looks like a heavy and technical sport. Lastly I would like to see Sport Climbing, awesome how they do it! If I was to compete in another sport of The World Games, then I would choose Muaythai or Sport Climbing. Not that I’m good at them, but it looks really fun to train for them every day.”

Preparing for The World Games

”I will be training on the rope 3 times a week and doing strength training in the gym 3 times a week. For the weeks beforehand we have a strict nutrition plan, because we need to lose some weight. Tug of war is a sport with weight classes. At The World Games I’ll compete in the 640 kg class with my team, and a team consists of 8 athletes.”

Beside Tug of War I work for a non-profit organization where we help young people get a job. I’m doing this 4 days a week; the rest of my working hours I’m giving personal training in a private studio and CrossFit lessons. Out of the Tug of War season, I do CrossFit and skiing.”

Wouter Raeymaekers has also answered some questions sent in through social media:

In Tug of War, are you allowed anything on your hands in competition, either to help get a better grip or to help avoid abrasion injuries?

We can’t use gloves, but it’s allowed to use a type of resin. We put it on our hands, to have a better grip. Every Tug of War player uses it, because it makes such a big difference, especially on warm days when our hands are getting sweaty. So having a good type of resin is important as well. We have an athlete in our team who makes different types of resin, for warm and colder days. We mostly avoid abrasion injuries by training a lot on the rope, so that our hands get used to it. But sometimes abrasion injuries still happen after long competition days, it’s part of the game.

What other sport is closest to Tug of War?

Hmm, that’s a really difficult question. It’s a strength and power sport with technical and tactical aspects. Tug of War athletes have strong legs, forearms and back. Some matches are over in 1 minute, but some matches can take over 10 minutes. I think a lot of Tug of War athletes would be pretty good at indoor rowing.

Have you had challenges during your career?

The hardest challenge we have every year is probably losing weight, because we have to pull in a weight class. Every year it’s a challenge to get our weight on point. For some pullers the last kilograms are getting lost in the sauna. So the day before the competition is all about recovery as fast as possible from the sweat we’ve lost. Another difficult challenge for me is the work and sport balance. It’s not always that easy to work and train much. Sometimes a week is too short.

What’s your goal for 2022?

I hope to achieve some good results with the team in different tournaments like The World Games and the World Championships, and become a better athlete.

In Tug of War, do you have specific positions for all pullers? Do you need different skills in different positions?

The best way to position a team is to look at the line off the rope. There has to be a good line on the rope: this can be straight, or slightly slanted from top to bottom with the first puller in the highest position. So the specific position of a puller will depend on where he pulls the best. The last man on the rope is the anchor man, this is a different skill. The anchor man has the rope around his body and can lean in with his full weight. They have a lot more pressure on their legs, it’s very different from any other position.

 The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association, organised with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 7-17 July 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and over 100 countries will take part in The World Games.

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